Doctors as teachers

Doctors as teachers

New UF master’s degree to help doctors become better teachers

By April Frawley Birdwell

UF has established a new master’s degree program geared not only toward helping physicians be better teachers, but also training them to be scholars in the field.

The colleges of Education and Medicine have joined forces to offer an online joint master’s degree program, which will begin in the fall and is open to physicians across the state of Florida.

“Most faculty arrive at their position without any formal training in teaching techniques and best practices,” said Marian Limacher, M.D., senior associate dean for faculty affairs and professional development in the College of Medicine. “They have been students so long themselves they have developed their own style, but it may not be founded in best practices.”

Teaching is generally not a skill taught in medical school, as physicians-in-training are more focused on learning how to treat patients. But as physicians become teachers themselves, of medical students, residents and fellows, there is a need for more advanced knowledge in instructional strategies and research methods used to measure educational outcomes.

“Many health science professionals have been exposed to a monochromatic view of education that is lecture-based and behavioristically driven,” said Erik Black, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Medicine department of pediatrics and the College of Education School of Teaching and Learning. “That is not necessarily where medical education is going. Today, there is a growing emphasis on small group learning, team-based learning and constructivist principles of instruction and learning.”

The 36-hour master’s degree program will arm physicians with strategies they can use in the clinical education setting and give them the tools to assess educational efforts, as well. Courses include subjects such as instructional design, research methods in professional and medical education, adult learning and more.

The program stems from a Department of Education-funded pilot project UF researchers have been working on for two years.

Eventually, the master’s program likely will be opened up to professionals in other health fields, Black said.

For College of Medicine faculty, the issue is particularly important. The college is revising its tenure and promotion guidelines so faculty who have pursued advanced education in teaching and who are conducting research in medical education can use this in tenure applications, Limacher said.